Blessed Antony Grassi
“Our only desire in life should be to praise God and adore Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He who hears Mass with devotion every morning cannot fail to be a friend of God.” Thus did Blessed Anthony Grassi sum up what had always been — and remains — at the heart of Catholic life. For the whole of his life Blessed Anthony seems to have had no real desires beyond wanting to adore and love Christ in the Mass, in the Blessed Sacrament and in His Passion except, perhaps, to nurture this same adoration and love in other people. Certainly he entertained no earthly ambitions, being born (in 1592, two and a half years before the death of St Philip Neri), living his whole life and dying at the age of eighty (in 1671) in the same town of Fermo, four or five miles from the Adriatic coast in Northern Italy. He left Fermo very rarely: on occasion that he did, in 1625, was to go on a pilgrimage to Rome in the jubilee year proclaimed by Pope Urban VIII. Whilst in the eternal city, Blessed Anthony traced the footsteps of his beloved saint, deepening his devotion to that ‘hidden hero’ who had founded the Congregation of the Oratory which Blessed Anthony himself had entered, in October 1609, with the joyful words, “Oh what can make us worthy of the honour of being sons of St Philip?” Part of Blessed Anthony’s delight was in meeting Fr Consolini to whom St Philip had confided the history of the miraculous dilation of his heart by the Holy Spirit.
Blessed Anthony shared a number of spiritual gifts with his holy father, St Philip, including a deep love of the ministry of the confessional, rarely spending fewer than five or six hours each day reconciling people to God through this sacrament; and the gift of healing, with many cures credited to him during his life on earth and since. He also shared the Saint’s repugnance of sin and was known to be able to smell the stench of sins, especially of sins of impurity. His devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament knew no bounds living the whole of each day, as he did, as a preparation for Mass saying, “He who loves Our Lord Jesus Christ must desire to be with Him…the more we conform ourselves to His example the more perfect will be our lives.”
Yet, perhaps most notable of Blessed Anthony’s gifts – like St Philip’s – was his deep desire to remain unknown for “[h]e became,” wrote Lady Amabel Kerr in her biography, “a saint by the faithful performance of apparently insignificant duties towards God and man”
From the same mould which has, more latterly, produced saints such as St Therese of Lisieux - and many others besides - what better example could we look to in so self-seeking an age as our own?
O Lord hear our prayer and arouse in your Church that Spirit by which your priest, Blessed Antony, unceasingly promoted peace among men and the beauty of your house. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.